My birth was nothing like I'd imagined. I had hoped for a calm birth on MLU, ideally in water, I'd got my bag of distractions and photos and obscene amounts of snacks packed and we'd practised massage, different positions and breathing techniques. So when my labour stopped 12 hours after my waters broke and it became clear that we were looking at augmentation I was disappointed and a little bit scared.
I'd heard that when you're induced there's a long wait for beds on delivery (in fact I'd made us late stopping at Sainsbury's for a dressing gown and more food), but because my waters were 24h gone and they were worried about infection we effectively jumped the queue and were on delivery with a cannula in within an hour. Our midwife got us ready to go (me and my snack bag were shocked to hear there's no eating once the drip has started), but then because of other emergencies on delivery nothing actually started until 6am the next day, having arrived at 6pm. This was a blessing really - since we were already on delivery, I had a private room and Milo could stay, I wasn't self conscious with the contractions I was having, and we had time to get used to the idea. Scrolling at midnight, I read online that you should think of induction as a choice you've made in the best interests of your baby instead of something you're forced to do and it made me feel more in control.
Everybody says that induction is much more painful than spontaneous labour, and honestly, I was scared. I'd found just the examination when I arrived quite painful and I'd been listening to women elsewhere on delivery screaming all night and I felt almost certain I wouldn't cope without an epidural. In reality I was pleasantly surprised. Milo advocated for me to be able to move as much as possible, the student midwife helped me get my breathing techniques right and we turned our star projector on and giggled and danced and bounced our way from 2 to 4cm within the first four hours. I hadn't really wanted continuous monitoring, but the constant rhythm of little Maisie's heartbeat in the background motivated me to keep going.
By my next examination (6cm) the CTG wasn't reading properly and they wanted me to stay on the bed so they could keep an eye on her heart. This position was much more painful and I was miffed, so I compensated myself with the gas and air, and honestly has a great afternoon after that. It didn't remove the pain but it made me feel calm and relaxed and able to sleep for a minute or so at a time between contractions and took away any inhibitions I had with the staff looking after me, so we talked about everything and anything. I wasn't aware of labour intensifying but it must've done as when I needed a wee and the gar and air didn't reach, the air was blue!
The end of the first stage was hard - all day they'd been gradually dropping the drip as my natural contractions took over, but by this point the CTG was terrible, so while my midwives could see I was contracting with almost no breaks by looking at me, the nurse in charge couldn't see it from a trace and wouldn't let them turn the drip down any further. I asked for an epidural because I thought it would make them take it more seriously, but they called my bluff, and an anaesthetist, and I only avoided actually having one because it became clearer that I was in transition while the poor man was trying to consent me.
The second stage was quick; a fetal scalp electrode was placed as the trace was still pants, and then the FSE reading was not reassuring, the room filled with people, and I had a significant episiotomy to get her out faster. High on the last traces of entonox and aware that there were concerns about her heart, I would've thought I'd be terrified but in fact I just felt really focused. I ditched the gas and air so I could concentrate, clenched my teeth for the cut and pushed as hard as I could, focusing so hard that when she actually came out I didn't notice and had to be told to open my eyes. And just like that, silent and blue until she was rubbed with a towel, Maisie Indigo Forest had arrived.
I didn’t get the golden hour I'd hoped for but it was still amazing. They were worried about bleeding, so there was an injection and then a sharp tug to get the placenta out, then a buzzer pull due to the bleeding, then once they'd established that it was not in fact a haemorrhage but outrageous bleeding from my enormous vagina wound, a poor midwife had to lean on my perineum to apply pressure until someone confident to do the stitches arrived. This meant Maisie was handed off to Milo (who whipped his shirt off like he was on Baywatch) quite early on although I did get a few minutes skin to skin. Again, I would've expected to be beside myself with all the drama but I felt so confident I was in good hands.
The birth I'd thought would be painful and disempowering turned out to be beautiful. In spite of the monitors and drip, I got to move around, relax to a calm playlist (which still brings tears to my eyes if I hear it), see my husband in a new light, and make all the choices I could. Because I'd been to becoming families, I understood what was happening and I had a lot of confidence in my body and what it could do, and I felt proud of being able to manage the pain better than I'd expected. I also want to say that making a birth plan wasn't a waste of time and it didn't go out the window when my plans changed, it helped me remember what my priorities were and what things I was still able to make choices about. Interventions I really hadn't wanted like the scalp electrode and the managed third stage, were absolutely fine when I understood why they were necessary, and I'd worry less about my plans changing next time.
From a Dad’s perspective, Milo described it as an amazing experience, and more similar to watching someone go for gold at the Olympics than watching your favourite pub burn down. He was not a spare part, but advocated for me throughout, helped me with my breathing, asked the right questions, rubbed my back, reassured me when it was tough, and even got a detailed tour of my stitches from the nurse so he could help me understand what had happened later. He also cried more than I did. Although a few things didn't go to plan, it was nothing like the horror stories people love to tell when you're pregnant, and although I'll try for a calm water birth again if I have another one, I'll go into it confident that any kind of birth can be a positive experience.